Directed by KOJI MASUTANI
At the heart of this essential documentary is a critical and perennially relevant question:
Does it matter who is President of the United States when it comes to issues of war and peace?
The film employs what Harvard historian Niall Ferguson calls “virtual history” to investigate one of the most debated “what if” scenarios in the history of U.S. foreign policy: What would President John F. Kennedy have done in Vietnam if he had not been assassinated in 1963 and was instead re-elected in 1964? The examples – the Bay of Pigs debacle, the crisis in Laos, the erection of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis and two critical junctures in managing Vietnam – are well known, as are Kennedy’s actions and what subsequently transpired under Kennedy?s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.
Combining footage from numerous Kennedy press conferences, in-depth interviews and a close reading of the documentary record, the film argues that critical decisions about the use of restraint and coercive diplomacy often require greater acts of courage than the use of force. Meanwhile, Kennedy?s dry wit and Masutani?s judicious editing make the film a compelling and surprisingly entertaining experience.
Virtual JFK takes its inspiration from Kennedy’s famous statement that “we must never negotiate out of fear, but we must never fear to negotiate“. It resonates powerfully with audiences who are invited to draw their own conclusions from the documentary record.